Those Who Don't Know is a short story that has been in The Ceej's mind for a few months. Internal turmoil, social commentary, and artistic will intertwine in a moving, if not abornmally short story about a guy who doesn't know what he wants and makes a mistake he can't learn from because he'll never know he made it. It's not his best work, but it's pretty good nonetheless.
Corey Kilpatrick didn't realise what he had. The ones that knew him all too well, especially those around his age, were jealous of him. He wasn't especially successful, though he wasn't impoverished either. But he had something more rare than that. He was 35 years old, but if he told anyone he was 17, they would have believed him. He had the experience to come with age, but he still had his youth. That meant he still had opportunities. He could take advantage of his youth in ways that most wouldn't even understand they could, but he just didn't know what he had. Well, he knew he had it. He just didn't understand how great it was.
Instead, he focused on what he didn't have. He really didn't understand why his record deal fell through or his personal life was falling apart. But, no matter how bad things got, there would always be at least one friend willing to listen to him and try to help him out. In fact, it was at Carl's flat that he began to make the biggest mistake he would ever forget.
Lamenting a particularly bad day, he sighed as he collapsed on Carl’s couch, “I feel like I’m getting old.”
“Getting,” Carl agreed, “But you’re not there yet.”
“But I’ve been thinking,” Corey said, “Thinking back at how many years have gone by, and how much experience they’ve bestowed upon me, how much maturity they’ve brought me. I know it should be a blessing, but it depresses me. Is that wrong?”
“To feel that way?” Carl asked, “No. But think about what you have.”
“Would it be so wrong,” Corey continued, “if, given the option, I became a kid again? If I just erased my past and had a new one written in fifteen years ago? Would I be such a bad guy for agreeing to that, knowing the maturity that comes with the experience of my age?”
“I think you’re the only one who can answer those questions,” Carl told him, “but I think you don’t realise what you have.”
At the hour that they finished, Corey decided he should head home and get some sleep. He reluctantly stood up and sauntered to the door.
Corey had taken this alley from Carl’s flat many times. The most exciting thing that had ever happened was the guy who tried to mug him. Corey had stood firm and ended up with the mugger’s wallet. That was surprising to Corey considering he clearly couldn’t have taken the mugger.
This time, however, even he didn’t believe what he saw. There was a man. Or was there? Yes. There he was. Behind the trash bags on the left. No. Behind the dumpster on the right. What the hell was this? How was he doing this?
When the man appeared right in front of him, Corey jerked back and yelled as if a hornet flew into his face.
“Relax, guy,” the man said, “I’m not gonna hurt ya.”
Corey realised this man was translucent. He could see through him. Only barely, but he could sort of see the street light on the other end of the alley through the man’s chest. “Are you a ghost?”
“A ghost?” the man laughed, “No. In order to be a ghost, I’d have to have died.”
“Then what are you?” Corey enquired.
“Me?” the man asked, “Why, I’m your friend.”
“Jesus Christ!” Corey exclaimed, “Carl must have laced my drink. This is one hell of a trip.”
“Do you feel sober?” the man asked.
“Except for your being here,” Corey answered, “yeah.”
“Then let’s get to business,” the man proposed, “Have you made up your mind?”
“About becoming fifteen again.”
“What?” Corey was confused, “How did you—”
“You’ve seen me teleport,” the man told him, “and you can see through me. But what you want to know is how I knew about your wish?”
“Fair enough,” Corey conceded, “but before I agree to do anything with you, I think I’d want to know who you are, what you are, and why you want to help me.”
“My name is Vichaisus,” the man exclaimed, “and I’ve been called many things by many different religions. I’ve been called a god, a genie, a prophet, an angel, and even nasty things like a demon or evil spirit. The truth is I am not so much unlike yourself. I have thoughts and feelings. I have good and evil tendencies. I have powers and limitations, albeit different powers and limitations from your own. As far as why I want to help you, do you know anyone else who could make you a teenager again?”
“No, I don’t,” Corey answered, “But that doesn’t mean I trust your intentions. No offence, but I just met you and my first impression was kind of creepy. Is there maybe any way you can show me what my life would be like now before you do it?”
“Nah,” Vichaisus replied, “I don’t know what your life would be like if I did until I actually do it. And, even then, in this new world where you are a teenager, we will probably never have even met each other. Your decision is irreversible. That’s why I was asking if you’re sure. Where is your life now? Where could it go if I don’t do this? Where could it go if I do? What do you have to lose? What do you have to gain? These are all questions you need to ask yourself. In the end, the responsibility for your choice is yours.”
“Ah, what the hell,” Corey said, “They say you only live once. I have the opportunity to live twice. Do it!”
The man levitated above Corey, waving his hands around him. In a flash, Corey was gone, and the man was in the alley all alone. He didn’t know why he felt like he had just done magic. He was only walking through the alley. And nobody else was there. It was weird. Maybe I just did one of those kind of spells, he thought to himself, where time is changed and I didn’t actually do it.
Corey awoke to his alarm clock going off. Mrs. Kilpatrick opened the door and reminded him it was time for school. Mrs. Kilpatrick had difficulties conceiving Corey. She had been trying for eighteen years before she finally did. Now, she’s a little old to be the mother of a fifteen-year-old boy, and her health suffered greatly trying to do so at her age, but she loves him, and so she does. If only she had given birth to him when she first started trying. It wouldn’t be so hard on her.
Corey is well-behaved for his age, almost as if there’s some suppressed maturity, but he’s still fifteen years old, so that’s not saying much. He had to force himself out of bed, having no idea why he was so tired. It was as if he had been up late the night before, but that couldn’t be so. He did his homework and went to bed.
Had he been an adult, he’d probably only be a casual user of the popular websites of the day like Facebook and Twitter but, as a fifteen-year-old, he’s obsessed. Had he been born 35 years ago, he may have put forth some effort in his teen years to learn guitar and write lyrics, but there was no need to pass the time that way. He had text messaging to fill his time.
School was just as boring as it would have been eighteen years ago, but less informative. He didn’t take as much information from it as he might have had he been through this a while back. He didn’t have band practice after school. Band was disbanded years ago due to budget cuts. But that’s okay because there was a session on XBox live waiting for him at home. That was a reason to take a short-cut through the alley.
Carl was just finishing his shift at the One Stop Shop. He never had anyone in his life to point out that things didn’t have to be the way they were. He never left his job at the One Stop Shop. Working was what he was supposed to do. He had no way of knowing that, if he had gotten fired from that job two years ago, that would have been the best thing that would have ever happen to him. And who was supposed to point that out? A teenage boy? I guess the world could live without what would have been a series of bestselling novels. Carl was paying the bills. He was being productive. That’s all that mattered.
Mr. Kilpatrick died of a heart attack at the age of 60. Trying to keep up with his teenage son at that age was a challenge. If only he had his son sooner, they may have enjoyed many peaceful outings as adults. But he was there for his son until the end, and that was what mattered.
Vichaisus never figured out what it was that he did, but it wouldn’t have been the first time. He figured he probably manipulated time in a way where he would never have met the person for whom he did it. He hadn’t had a friend in centuries but, just maybe, if he had met someone fun that night, instead of just feeling exhausted, he could have a new friend. But, he still tried to find people and do nice things for them. And that’s all that mattered.
In the alley, Corey met a weird man. An older man. He came out from behind the trash bags on the left. Closing the door behind him, he was taking two trash bags of his own to the dumpster on the right. After throwing them away, he noticed Corey. He approached him. Corey didn’t know why, but he had a feeling of déjà vu. Unknowingly, he flinched backward.
“Relax,” said the man, “I know who you are.”
Corey began feeling especially nervous. He wanted to run, but he wanted to know what this man was talking about. “What do you know?” he asked.
“I know you were here last night,” the man answered.
Corey was confused, “I wasn’t here last night.”
“Not in this timelime,” the man responded, “But in the original timeline, you were here, and you wished to become a kid again.”
Corey was freaked out. He screamed, “You’re crazy!” but he wasn’t sure he really believed it.
“You threw away a great life, you know.”
“Who are you?”
“Let’s just say that I’m not timelocked,” he answered, “I remember things as they were before the timeline changed. I used to know you. Not personally, of course. I saw the videos you posted online. You were talented. But now...”
“You threw it all away. Sure, you didn’t have the exposure, but you didn’t look much older than you do now. And you were talented. You had all the opportunity in the world.”
“Well, I’ll do it again.”
“I don’t know. How much guitar do you know? What have you written?”
Corey stood there with a blank but thoughtful stare.
“That’s what I thought,” the man said, “In the other timeline, you were already on your way there. It’s not too late to make something of your life, but I doubt you’ll easily get back what you had by the age you were. Just,” the old man paused, “Just make sure that you put forth the effort and make something of your life. And, whatever you do, don’t do something stupid and erase the work you’ve already done.”
Corey never believed he led another life before this one as the man said, but his heart always told him he did. He wrote off the conversation as the incoherent ramblings of a crazy, old alley-man, but he never did forget the advice he received that day. He was able to separate his lack of belief in the man’s story from the advice given at living a better life. Corey will be celebrating his 16th birthday soon. His second 16th birthday. He doesn’t suspect that his mother has granted his birthday wish of a guitar and lessons. Who knows? Maybe one day he’ll run into Carl again and affect his life. The future hasn’t been written. Corey will just have to do the best he can with what he’s been given.
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